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Wine to 5: Mags Janjo, importer, educator and consultant

Decanter speaks to Mags Janjo to discover more about his life as a wine professional. The job comes with some perks but also hard work and unexpected challenges.

With more than a decade of industry experience across wine retail, sales and brand creation, Mags Janjo is WSET Diploma-certified and now has his own UK wine importing company, MJ Wine Cellars, which also offers wine education and consultancy services.

In 2020, he partnered with Jancis Robinson OBE MW to launch the BAME Wine Professionals website – an initiative to shine light on wine talent in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.


How did you end up here?

I’ve always loved speaking, sharing my experiences and nurturing talent, so the wine education evolved from that. I set up MJ Wine Cellars in 2019 as a wholesale business, building brands for high-street retailers. But we quickly realised, in the early days of Covid, that consumers were staying home and ordering wine online. It was obvious that we had to adapt and evolve, so we opened a retail side of the business too.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Once upon a time I would have said it was having the opportunity to travel, but I haven’t left the UK in more than two years now. But this difficult period has revealed that the enjoyment goes beyond just travel. No two days are the same in my job: we could be discussing the paper type and cardboard thickness for a volume brand’s Australian Shiraz first thing on a Monday, and then later be tasting an organically farmed, amphora-fermented, single-vineyard Assyrtiko by close of play. My role offers flexibility, which comes with its own set of challenges.

And the worst?

The feeling of never having enough time. There are always half a dozen things that urgently need attention.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

People assume the glitzy side of the job – from travelling to tasting – is the entire role. Yes, buying for the wholesale and retail arm does involve tasting quirky, niche and interesting products; travelling to see producers is a necessity; and the occasional wine dinner is certainly a perk. However, that accounts for less than 5% of how I spend my time. Most of it is less glamorous – time spent trawling through spreadsheets, checking and double-checking margins, and managing suppliers, logistics and customer relationships. We are a small team, so everyone needs to muck in. Most of our back-office work is done internally, which includes taking bottle shots, consolidating data sheets and uploading them to the website. It hasn’t been uncommon for me to be up until the early hours of the morning doing data entry – especially in the early days.

What was your greatest moment?

I had the opportunity to make wine in the south of France two or three years ago. Previously I had worked in wineries and helped out during vintages, but this was the first time I was let loose on a few tonnes of fruit and winemaking equipment. It was, as they say, back-breaking work, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. For interested readers, the wine was delicious for a couple of months, but eventually threw a mean deposit as our filter machine broke down halfway through bottling!

And your greatest mistake?

Bottling on a Sunday, in rural France, with no way of getting any winemaking equipment at short notice…

What’s the one wine you recommend most often to friends?

Moschopolis, Aióra White: a lees-aged, Greek blend of Assyrtiko, Malagousia and Xinomavro, aged and fermented in amphora. If that doesn’t spark your interest, I’m not sure what will!


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